Wednesday, June 10

How good is good enough in '09?

The term means different things to different people, but "rebuilding year" is a pretty commonly accepted definition for the state of Georgia's football team in 2009. The silver lining to such a situation, of course, is that we aren't burdened with the kind of hype and high expectations that, as last year's campaign proved, are extremely difficult to live up to. The flip side to that, though, is that we don't really go into this season with a set of clearly defined goals. With any team, even the most talented ones, you don't know what the team is capable of until you've actually played the entire season; with this team, though, we're still somewhat uncertain as to what they should be capable of. On the one hand we're having to figure out how to bounce back from the departure of guys like Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, but on the other hand, we've got Phil Steele saying we can still be a dark-horse national-title contender.

Without getting into too much detail about any one game on this year's slate -- we've got the rest of the offseason for that -- we've got only one game it looks like we should definitely win and only one game we're probably destined to lose. Between those, we've got three games we're at least fairly certain to be favored to win, two in which we'll probably be underdogs, and five (five of the first six games, in fact, by my count) that are complete toss-ups at this point. So if the absolute, end-of-the-world worst-case scenario is thus 4-8 and the best-case is 11-1 (plus, what the hell, a 12th win in a bowl game), that averages out to an eight-win season. There are a lot of similarities, though, between this season and 2005, in which we rolled out a physically gifted but largely untested QB who'd been patiently waiting his turn behind a superstar -- and yet we still won 10 games and an SEC title, despite having to replace far more defensive talent than the '09 squad will have to. Even in 2006, when we were also breaking in new QBs and managed to lose to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, we still managed to swing nine wins. So maybe 8-4 or 8-5 is still pegging things a little low.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that going 9-3 in the regular season, then notching a 10th win in a bowl game, would be huge for this team. Despite a supposed rebuilding situation, we would have matched the record (and likely the approximate bowl destination) of the previous year's team, which had been touted for the national title, and I can't think of a better case for "We don't rebuild, we reload" than that. That would also give Mark Richt a career tally of 92-25 and a seventh 10-win season in nine years; all of those factors together would serve to cement Georgia as a pretty elite program. And as history has shown us, it's certainly achievable.

But that's just my take on the subject -- what's yours? I've put together this poll to get a very basic sketch of what Georgia fans' (and non-fans') expectations are of this year's team; once the responses to this poll take shape, I'll put up some more polls to get into the specifics of which teams you think we should beat, which bowl we should go to, and that sort of thing. But for right now, I just want you to run this year's schedule through your individual brain computers and spit out what seems like a reasonable and satisfactory outcome to you. This isn't meant to be a prediction of what you think's going to happen; all I'm looking for is your baseline below which you'll be a disappointed fan, and at or above which you'll call this season worthwhile.

Again, more specific questions (and responses) will follow eventually, but in the meantime you're welcome to expound on your poll responses in the comments.


Unknown said...

'05 had *the* perfect schedule. So good that I left the Outback Bowl the year before, turned to a friend, and declared us the SEC East champs the next season. You had...

- A highlighted OOC game against a laughably overrated opponent
- USC's annual Super Bowl IN Athens and when the OBC and Co. were still figuring things out (turned out we really, really needed that)
- Garbage for a while
- A highlighted trip to Knoxville, where Richt had ruled twice before
- Homecoming
- Florida
- Week off
- Auburn
- Easy team to end the SEC season
- Trek

That slate was so doable that we could afford to lose Shockley mid-season, have a huge collapse against Auburn, and *still* win the East on the last Saturday.

This year, though...not so much. Schedule's pretty top-loaded, so the learning process better be powered by rocket fuel. The first four games could see us going 1-3 if we're not ready to roll, so.

This smells like an '06-esque 9-4 outfit to me. 10-3 would be a solid validation of our program.

Universal Remonster said...

You know... I'm usually the most skeptical of all. Before the '06 season I had us going 8-5 with the bowl game. I was a little more optimistic about '07, although I still predicted 3 losses or more, so I was still ultimately wrong. Basically, I'm trying to say that I'm not looking through rose colored glasses when i make my prediction this year...

I think we lose two games in the regular season. Of course, based off of precedent, I have us losing to UF... but the other I have us losing to is Auburn, just because that series is always freaking crazy, no matter who has the better team.

The only reason why I'm predicting this is because I'm assuming that our running game will be so much better than people are expecting. We've got a line that can move people, and runners of different skill sets that can be used situationally. I think Samuel will still be the "main" guy this season, but I also think you'll see King and Thomas with 6-9 touches a game as well. Our offense could be as balanced as it has been any year since we've got Joe throwing to a talented, if thin, WR corps.

Plus, it seems a lot of people overlook the fact that our defense this year might be able to make every team we play one-dimensional. If they play up to their potential, very few tems will be able to effectively run on us. We'll have the most solid interior line in the SEC, and we're also the most talented team as far as LB athleticism and depth is concerned. Put all that together and you're going to have teams chucking it in the air 35 times a game.

What worries me, though, is that we have unproven DBs, and our safety tandem is notorious for being burned in pass coverage. Hopefully their little switcharoos in the offseason have suited their skill sets better, but I'm worried about teams that can throw the deep ball (which thankfully there aren't that many of this year... at least in the SEC. That are proven, I mean...)

Call me crazy, but I think this is going to be one of those seasons where we surprise a lot of people. Of course, if we lose to Okie State then that prediction flies right out the window.

Hobnail_Boot said...

9-3 is the bar below which this season will be unsatisfactory.

Will said...

There can't be any "losing streak" to the NATS. Cannot. I don't care if they're 10-0 and we're 1-9 going into that game. Losing to Tech may happen. Losing streaks to Tech should never happen.

Beyond that, I'd agree, though add that a real "best-case" scenario involves Tebow blowing out both knees and separating a shoulder against Chattanooga or someone when UF is up 50-0 in the 3rd and the Dawgs going 12-0.